IT essential to Army officer training

Rand recommends skills such as intuitive decision-making and situational awareness

“Something Old, Something New: Army Leader Development in a Dynamic Environment”

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The Army must offer its career officers additional graduate school education and more time for career development, according to a new Rand report. The research group recommends that the Army consider increasing its officer ranks to accommodate a longer career education and training path.

The report’s recommendations will become a basis for future discussions about Army officer training, said Henry Leonard, a senior military research analyst at Rand and a principal author of the report, “Something Old, Something New: Army Leader Development in a Dynamic Environment.”

“The Army already is doing some of the things that we told them should be done,” Leonard said. “You could see our report as offering encouragement to the Army to continue to pursue those efforts with as many resources as they can put out.”

Using information technology to gain situational awareness is one of the new operational skills that Leonard and his research team identified in their study.

The Rand report focuses on a now-recognized need for additional education and training, said Michele Flournoy, a senior adviser at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “One of the things that has become clear in recent operations in Afghanistan and Iraq is the premium that has to be placed on leadership and command skills,” she said.

Leonard said the need for Army officers to develop greater self-awareness and adaptability has grown as amorphous, changing and ill-defined threats have replaced older threats, such as those posed by the Soviet Union.

Implementing the report’s recommendations will take time and money, but the Army excels at developing operational skills, knowledge, and cognitive and character traits, Leonard said. For example, the Army’s success at teaching deliberate decision-making is well-known, he said. But the service also needs to develop officers’ ability to shortcut deliberate decision-making and make quick, intuitive decisions.

The Rand study refers to that process as recognitional decision-making. “It’s partly a matter of training, but it can also be a matter of education,” Leonard said. “It’s training in the sense that people learn to do it by doing it. But exercises can be designed to improve people’s skills at that kind of decision-making. The Army is working on things like that right now.”

Flournoy said distance education and Internet resources can help officers develop those skills and knowledge. But most of the added learning experiences that experts now advocate have to be firsthand and face-to-face, she said.

Where to add those experiences is not as obvious. “When you look at an Army officer’s professional development path, it’s pretty packed,” she said. “They don’t have a lot of downtime. They have no downtime.”

Preparing Army officers
for new uncertainties

A new report from Rand’s Arroyo Center offers the Army Training and Doctrine Command several recommendations for adapting the career training and education of Army officers to the new environment in which they now operate.

Some of those recommendations are:

  • Develop educational modules designed to build officers’ competence and confidence in making rapid decisions in military and nonmilitary situations.

  • Use virtual or online learning for predeployment briefings.

  • Expand officers’ exposure to foreign military services and officers.

  • Create secondary positions in which officers can broaden their experiences. For example, a combat arms officer could learn strategic planning or a strategic planning officer could work as a deputy operations officer in a joint command.

  • Expand the cohort of Army officers beyond 55,000, the current authorization level.

— Florence Olsen

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